The Invention of Prehistory (inbunden)
Inbunden (Hardback)
Antal sidor
WW Norton & Co
101 images
39 x 231 x 153 mm
835 g
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The Invention of Prehistory

Empire, Violence, and Our Obsession with Human Origins

Inbunden,  Engelska, 2024-05-31
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Books about the origins of humanity dominate best-seller lists, while national newspapers present breathless accounts of new archaeological findings and speculate about what those findings tell us about our earliest ancestors. In this coruscating work, acclaimed historian Stefanos Geroulanos demonstrates how claims about the earliest humans not only shaped Western intellectual culture but gave rise to our modern world. The very idea that there was a human past before recorded history only emerged with the Enlightenment, when European thinkers began to reject faith-based notions of humanity and history in favour of supposedly more empirical ideas about the world. From the state of nature and Romantic notions of virtuous German barbarians to theories about Neanderthals, killer apes and a matriarchal paradise where women ruled, Geroulanos captures the sheer variety and strangeness of the ideas that animated many of the major thinkers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Charles Darwin and Karl Marx. Yet as Geroulanos shows, such ideas became, for the most part, the ideological foundations of repressive regimes and globe-spanning empires. Deeming other peoples savages allowed for guilt-free violence against them; notions of killer apes who were our evolutionary predecessors made war seem natural. The emergence of modern science only accelerated the Wests imperialism. The Nazi obsession with race was rooted in archaeological claims about prehistoric IndoGermans; the idea that colonialised peoples could be bombed back to the Stone Age was made possible by the technology of flight and the anthropological idea that civilisation advanced in stages. As Geroulanos argues, accounts of prehistory tell us more about the moment when they are proposed than about the deep pastand if we hope to start improving our future, we would be better off setting aside the search for how it all started. A necessary, timely, indelible account of how the quest for understanding the origins of humanity became the handmaiden of war and empire, The Invention of Prehistory will forever change how we think about the deep past.
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"The strength of Mr. Geroulanoss book lies in its breadth. It ranges easily from the pseudoscience of Freud and Jung (for both of whom idiosyncratic notions of prehistory were important) to Nazi obsessions with origins, Unesco debates about racism and modern feminist strains of social theory. Mr. Geroulanos has a good ear for prose and a knack for defamiliarizing expressions that should seem stranger: His pages on the phrase the thin veneer of civilization, for example, are extraordinary. The book is lavishly and thoughtfully supplied with illustrations that enrich the discussion. . . . The problem of prehistory remains enormous, indeed, and it is humbling to be reminded of its abuses. Mr. Geroulanos has done so vividly." -- Kyle Harper - The Wall Street Journal "History may not be bunk, but prehistory is: So argues Stefanos Geroulanos in his spirited new book... The more you want to upend the status quo, the more likely youll be to venerate an idyllic past. The reverse is also true: The more you want to preserve the status quo, the more likely youll be to scorn the past as horrific or, at least, unsustainable. Geroulanos traces the long history of Europeans depicting Indigenous and colonized peoples as savage thereby rationalizing every violent measure used against them, from brutality to annihilation." -- Jennifer Szalai - The New York Times

Övrig information

Stefanos Geroulanos is the Director of the Remarque Institute and a Professor of History at New York University. The author of Transparency in Postwar France: A Critical History of the Present and other books, he lives in New York, NY.